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Secret Origins: Super Mario Bros. 3

Super Mario Bros. 3Today being the thirtieth anniversary of Nintendo's landmark Super Mario Bros. 3's release in North America, I cannot let the day pass without looking back on one of the defining games of the 8-bit era.  I first became enamored with the adventures of Mario and Luigi in 1986 and over the next several years, Nintendo became my childhood religion with the pair of plumbers at the top of the holy ladder.  I watched the Super Mario Bros. Super Show cartoon while eating Mario fruit snacks and wearing my Mario t-shirt, scribbling in my Mario notebook with a Mario pencil (with flag topper!) and checking the time on my Mario wristwatch.  In May 1989 I picked up a free first issue of GamePro at a Toys R Us while out shopping with my mother and flipping through the pages make my young heart skip a beat.  There was a Super Mario Bros. 3 coming and it looked fantastic.  The two-page preview spread of the Famicom title (already available in Japan) showcased the best visuals I'd seen for the Nintendo Entertainment System, and I scoured the piece for clues about what was ahead for Mario.  This time around, according to the preview article, Princess Peach (who?  Where's Princess Toadstool??) has been captured by the Kuppa King (any relation to the Koopa King?) and it's up to Mario and Luigi to defeat the Kuppa guardians (not kids?) and save the day.  I asked my grandfather about the odd names, comparing Kuppa to Koopa and being unaware of localization, and he told me that since these are made-up names, they can be whatever the creators want them to be.  I just wanted to understand the continuity between the different games.

GamePro
Super Mario Bros. 3 preview, GamePro, May 1989 courtesy Retromags.com

In December 1989 I insisted that my parents take me on the pilgrimage to see the game's big premiere at Video Armageddon in The Wizard, and then as the game's release neared, Nintendo Power began to cover the title, although in those days a new video game didn't release simultaneously across the country.  The game would release on its release day, but shipments would make their way across the country on whatever schedule the logistics people chose, so it could be days or even weeks before a highly anticipated game reached the local K-Mart or Sears.  It wasn't until March 1990 that I first saw the game in person when my parents gave it to me as a birthday present.  The evening they gave it to me was a parent/teacher/student night in my third grade class, and to attempt to pry me away from the controller was complete madness, so I was able to skip the event and my grandparents came over to keep an eye on me that evening.  Not that they saw much of me.  I didn't get up from the TV until it was time to go to bed.

I took my sweet time with Mario's big adventure, exploring every corner I could reach.  I scowled at the watery World 3 with its nightmare Boss Bass and Big Bertha encounters, marveled at how World 4's Giant Land scaled up familar foes such as Goombas and Koopa Troopas, and met my match for a while in the high altitudes of World 5's auto-scrolling sky levels.  As the first secrets appeared in the magazines of the day, I sought out the mysterious warp whistles and tried to make the treasure ship appear on the map screen.  Finally, when Nintendo Power published a complete strategy guide blowout in July 1990, I turned the game totally inside out with its maps and tips.  By the time the curtain dropped at the end of the game, I'd been on the trip of a lifetime that no other game could possibly ever top.  Then, before the year ended, the first previews of Super Mario World for the Super NES started to appear in the press...

Nintendo Power
Super Mario Bros. 3 Nintendo Power Strategy Guide, July 1990 courtesy Retromags.com

As for Super Mario Bros. 3's legacy in my home, I've bought the game a few more times over the years.  I had to have its Super NES upgrade in Super Mario All-Stars, needed to experience it again as a novelty download for the Wii's Virtual Console, scored a free download of it for the 3DS's Virtual Console, and absolutely needed to buy the Wii U's Game Boy Advance Virtual Console release which added the lost e-Reader levels into the mix for new SMB3 content after all these years.  I also have access to the NES game on the Switch's online service of classic hits.  It's one of those games that I'll likely never stop buying as the years go by even though I think Super Mario World is the better game.  Shh, nobody tell Super Mario Bros. 3 I said that!

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